(Adds details on figures)
BOGOTA, May 15 (Reuters) - Colombia’s economy expanded 2.8% in the first quarter, led by the finance and mining sectors, the government’s statistics agency said on Tuesday, beating last year’s 2.0% expansion.
The DANE agency also revised annual growth figures for last year down to 2.6% from 2.7%.
Growth in the first quarter was unchanged from the fourth quarter, said Juan Daniel Oviedo, the head of the DANE, during a presentation in Bogota.
Policymakers have held the central bank’s benchmark interest rate at 4.25% for more than a year in a bid to encourage consumer spending while trying to keep inflation from creeping higher.
“There’s a negative surprise for the central bank, remember they expected growth of 3.2 percent (for the first quarter),” said Camilo Perez, head of economic research at Banco de Bogota.
“I think it’s too soon to expect some adjustment of monetary policy, but the fact that growth is lower than the one foreseen by the central bank surely strengthens the scenario that the interest rate will remain on hold for longer than previously expected,” Perez said.
Analysts in a Reuters poll in April expected the board to hold the rate until at least September.
Growth in the first quarter was buoyed by the financial sector and mining, which expanded 5.5% and 5.3% respectively during the quarter, DANE figures showed.
The retail sector grew 4.0% in the first three months of the year, while the construction sector contracted 5.6%, the agency said.
Colombia’s top exports are commodities such as oil, coal and coffee.
Analysts expect the economy to grow 3.25% this year, while the central bank estimates expansion will be 3.5%. (Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb, Helen Murphy and Carlos Vargas; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Susan Thomas)